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Women who played pivotal roles in the #MeToo movement

Sasha R
22nd Oct 2018
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Over a year ago, the #MeToo movement took off on Twitter, encouraging women all over the world to voice their stories of sexual assault and abuse, and call out their abusers. Here, we take a look at some of the women who have been crucial to this movement.

Tarana Burke, Founder of the #MeToo movement

As an activist, Tarana Burke often spent time with children of colour at youth camps. At one such camp, she met a young girl who confided in her about her stepfather sexually abusing her. Burke could barely make it through five minutes of the conversation, and abruptly cut the young girl off, directing her to another counsellor. She was ridden with guilt as the child walked away from her because she could not bring herself to tell the young girl that she understood her pain. She could not find the courage to say, "me too".

The #MeToo movement began in 2006 when Burke, along with other activists, founded Just BE Inc., a youth organisation to guide young women of colour in their process of self-discovery and ultimately towards empowerment. Following this, they put up a MySpace page that was very well-received by many young survivors of sexual abuse.

Today, Burke is the Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), an intergenerational organisation focussed on the holistic development of girls and women, while encouraging communities to create opportunities for them to live independent, self-determined lives.

She is also working on her memoir, Where the Light Enters, set to be published in 2019.

Alyssa Milano, Hollywood Actress

In October 2017, New York Times published a detailed account of horrific sexual assault allegations against former producer Harvey Weinstein that eventually lead to his arrest in May 2018. Following this, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted asking people to reply “Me too” to her tweet if they have been sexually assaulted or harassed. This led to thousands of women – going beyond just household names – to come out with their personal stories.

Even celebrities like Lady Gaga, Reese Witherspoon, Cara Delevingne and Angelina Jolie joined her.

Milano soon realised that it was Burke who founded the #MeToo movement in 2006, and she encouraged others to learn about it.

In the weeks and months following the horrific stories being brought to light, abusers in positions of power finally came to light for the world to see who they really are. A few prominent names among the many accused are Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman and R. Kelly.

A comprehensive list of the rest can be found here.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Professor and Psychologist

In mid-September, a confidential letter from professor and psychologist Dr. Christine Ford to a senior Democratic lawmaker, unexpectedly went public without her consent. The letter alleged that the then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her 36 years ago, when they were in high school. When it came out to the public, Dr. Ford’s e-mail was hacked, and she received death threats. She then decided that she was ready to face the world with her story.

On September 27th, she faced the Senate Judiciary Committee and swore to tell the truth. She answered every question thrown at her, admitting that she did not recall the fine details of the encounter with Kavanaugh. When asked if she was sure that it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her, she confidently said, “One hundred percent.”

Initially, the White House had sent out a statement by Kavanaugh soon after, which read, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

During his testimony, Kavanaugh also did not comment further on Dr. Ford's allegation, and did not answer any questions pertaining to whether or not he knew her during high school.

Despite the allegations, Kavanaugh was sworn-in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, on October 6th.

Tanushree Dutta, Bollywood Actor

In 2008, actor Tanushree Dutta accused actor Nana Patekar of sexual assaulting her on the set of a movie but no action was taken, and the news died down just two days later.

Ten years after the incident, she recounted this in an interview on September 25, and said that Patekar has always been known to disrespect, beat and molest women, but nobody paid any attention to this behaviour. She revealed that she backed out of a song with Patekar in the movie Horn Ok Pleassss, because he demanded her to take part in uncomfortably intimate dance moves with him, and touched her inappropriately. After Dutta refused, her car was attacked by members of a political group while she was in it.

Following Dutta’s bravery, thousands of Indian women have been coming forward with their stories and allegations. Unsurprisingly, a large majority of them are against prominent figures, beginning our own #MeToo movement. Among the accused are Utsav Chakraborty, Vikas Bahl, Sajid Khan, and MJ Akbar. Take a look at the consequences of some of the allegations here.

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